GeekDad – Nascrag: 38 Gen Con Years and Counting

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Gen Con 2017 – the 50th edition of the gaming convention – is still a few months off, but event registration opens in less than two weeks! (May 28th) And if role-playing at Gen Con is your thing, you might look into putting some table time with NASCRAG on your calendar.

This will be NASCRAG‘s 38th year at the convention, and they’re offering two Pathfinder possibilities – which I’ll get back to shortly. First, a little background, courtesy of NASCRAG’s Dave Mitchard:

“In 1979 a group of friends were attending Gen Con and tried to enter the AD&D Open,” Mitchard explained in an email. “The game was full up and they got turned away, so they decided create their own tournament for the next year’s convention. The group was led by Len Bland and James Robert and the tournament was Fez: Valley of Trees. It focused more on puzzles and mental challenges than dice rolling combat stuff.”

The Fez adventures were well-received and later published by Mayfair Games.

“I’m not honestly sure exactly when the name NASCRAG was coined,” Mitchard admits. “It’s an acronym for National ASsociation of CRazed Gamers. Although for decades of you asked what it stood for they replied, ‘Whatever you want it to.’ I got involved as a player sometime in the late ’80s. The people running it were enthusiastic and invested in having a good time.”

Over the years, NASCRAG’s game style has evolved from the puzzle-and-strategy focus of the Fez games to a more humorous approach to role-playing, and while it once mirrored the original AD&D Open’s three-round tournament format, they switched to two rounds in 2014. NASCRAG has also adopted one-year stories rather than three-year arcs, since attendance in the second and third years would drop.

“Eight of our current or recent judges are the children of NASCRAG members,” Mitchard said. “And others bring their kids along as judges in training. We keep our adventures reasonably family-friendly for that reason. We see this from our players too: Some of our regulars bring their kids along every year. These kids have grown up gaming.”

If Pathfinder with the NASCRAG gang sounds like your kind of thing, here are the games they’re running at Gen Con:

A Little Madness Now and Then – A two-round team-advancement tournament adventure: Six strangers wake to find themselves inmates in a bizarre asylum. Escaping their captivity is only the beginning as the Great Old Ones stir in their slumber, roused by dark rituals in the night. Porcine disease and even stranger things stalk the land as society collapses. Mr. Pig is not to be trifled with. Player characters include a Gunslinger, a Gearhead, a Witch, a Viking, a Monk, and an Alien.

To Save the King – A standalone adventure with proceeds benefiting Child Advocates, Gen Con’s official charity partner. In this one, King Kirby lies dying. A sage and alumni of the Rosenchilds Finishing School for Wayward Nobles. school, he fell ill during a visit. Now his fate rests in the hands of the students of the Potions 101 class.

The latter sounds particularly fun to me. (And so begins my annual Gen Con schedule Tetris-ing.)

Both NASCRAG events are recommended for ages 13 and up, and while the catalog listings recommend some Pathfinder experience, materials are provided, and “To Save the King” does include a note that new players are welcome.